Boat ramp mishap renews claims of lost revenue

DEBATE has reignited over launching facilities and the need for a major upgrade at Warrnambool’s Lady Bay boat ramp after a car slipped into the sea.

A Holden Commodore towing a trailer loaded with a large boat lost traction and was dragged backwards into the water on Friday.

It had to be towed out with seawater pouring from its doors and windows.

Some people used the mishap to slam the council for inaction on improving launching facilities, but mayor Michael Neoh said the criticism was unfair and needed to be taken in context.

“I understand this incident was not due to swell on the boat ramp,” he said.

“There would have been hundreds of boats launched there this summer and if the ramp was so dangerous why haven’t there been more incidents like this?

“It may be frustrating for the fishing fraternity, but to say the council is not supportive of proposals to improve facilities is total rubbish.

“Potentially the upgrade proposals represent an $8 million project and it won’t happen overnight.

“There is a process in place. We are in the middle of a budgeting period and council will be reviewing its plan for the next four years.”

Warrnambool Offshore and Light Game Fishing Club spokesman Lucas Wilson said two-wheel-drive vehicles shouldn’t be precluded from being able to launch at south-west Victoria’s primary coastal destination, simply due to inadequate facilities. 

Two days before the incident he wrote to all city councillors urging them to make the harbour upgrade a priority. He said the city was missing out on a huge fishing tourism market which would be more reliable than the whale viewing season.

“The overwhelming majority of these several millions of dollars annually is spent in destinations where these anglers can launch their vessels safely  without risk of damage and where the facilities are of a high standard,”  Mr Wilson said.

Last year a consultant’s study which put forward options costing an estimated $6 million for boat launching and mooring facilities was put out for community comment and received more than 300 responses.

The council decided to seek more expert opinion on environmental implications and look at government funding options rather than rush the issue.

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